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~ Time out for Tiny Shrimp & Tiny Shells Pasta Salad ~

IMG_8451Got a mid-day snack attack?  Think small. Pretty in pink, tiny salad shrimp are sweet, tender and adorable.  I only use them occasionally in very specific recipes, like shrimp dip to serve as an appetizer, and shrimp salad for making sandwiches, but, sometimes I like to turn my shrimp salad into a pasta salad, and tiny shell-shaped pasta are the perfect foil to make it happen. Served in a small bowl, this little nosh staves off hunger pangs without almost any guilt. 

Once upon a time, people bought salad shrimp packed in cans (similar to tuna).  That's ok.  That's how things were done before flash freezing came along, and freezer- trucks and train-cars criss-crossed our country.  It was also before in-home refrigerators had an ample freezer section and households invested in chest- or stand-type freezers.  When my mom got a freezer IT was a big deal. When frozen salad shrimp became available to her, she never bought the canned again.

Americans love shrimp.

IMG_8446Shrimp, "the fruit of the sea", is America's favorite seafood.

IMG_8252When it comes to shrimp, while big is always better served in a shrimp cocktail, when making deep-fried shrimp, and, in specialty dishes like firecracker shrimp, that's just not so when it comes to making shrimp dip or shrimp salad.  Interestingly, small shrimp are sweeter, and, when mixed into a shrimp dip or a salad, the extra flavor is important. There's more.  Extra-small shrimp, also known as "salad shrimp", are seriously easy to work with. They're fully-cooked and flash-frozen, and, they thaw under cold running water (in a colander) in 8-10 minutes.

To make my tiny shrimp & tiny shells pasta salad:

IMG_835012  ounces salad shrimp, thawed as directed below

8  ounces small-shell pasta, cooked, drained, rinsed and "dried" as directed below (2 cups)

3/4  cup small-diced celery (12 tablespoons)

1/3  cup small-diced onion (about 6 tablespoons)

1/3  cup red bell pepper (about 6 tablespoons)

1/2  cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup Heinz chili sauce

1  teaspoon Lea & Perrin's Worcestershire sauce

1/2  teaspoon high-quality, not from concentrate, lemon juice

1/4  teaspoon each:  celery seed, sea salt and ground cayenne pepper

IMG_8260 IMG_8260~ Step 1. To thaw the shrimp, place the frozen shrimp in a colander in the sink.  Run cold water through them for 3-5 minutes.  Set aside for 3-5 minutes, or, a minute or two longer if necessary. Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate and pat dry.

IMG_8384 IMG_8384 IMG_8384 IMG_8384~Step 2.  To cook, drain and dry the pasta, in a 4-quart saucepan, bring 2 1/2-3 quarts of water to a boil.  Add 1 tablespoon sea salt.  Add pasta shells.  Adjust heat to simmer until shells are al dente, 8-9 minutes.  Do not overcook pasta.  Drain into a colander and immediately rinse pasta under cold water, combing through it with your fingers to be sure all the starch rinsed out of it. Place the colander over a plate and set aside to drain and "dry" the pasta of all moisture, about 10-15 minutes, giving the colander a thorough shake every 2-3 minutes throughout the process.

IMG_8357 IMG_8357 IMG_8357 IMG_8357 IMG_8357 IMG_8357 IMG_8423 IMG_8423~Step 3. Place shrimp in a medium-large bowl. Small dice the celery, onion and bell pepper as directed, adding them to the bowl as you work.  To make the dressing, in a small bowl, place and stir together the mayo, chili sauce, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice and seasonings.  Add dressing to bowl of shrimp and veggies.  Using a rubber spatula, thoroughly fold the dressing into the shrimp while tossing the vegetables throughout the salad.  Add and fold the pasta shells into the mixture.  Cover and refrigerate two hours or overnight, to allow flavors time to marry.

Store in the refrigerator for 4-5 days...

IMG_8433... & stave off snack attacks in small portions for 4-5 days.

IMG_8499Time out for Tiny Shrimp & Tiny Shells Pasta Salad:  Recipe yields 5-5 1/2 cups pasta salad.

Special Equipment List: colander; paper towels; cutting board; chef's knife; rubber spatula; 4-quart saucepan

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4ddaa51200dCook's Note: How does shrimp sizing work?  In a shrimp shell -- it doesn't.  There is no industry standard for it. One vendor's medium, may be another vendor's extra-large and vice versa.  This explains why many new-to-shrimp buying cooks are confused by these seven words:  extra-small, small, medium, large, extra-large, jumbo, colossal.  When purchasing shrimp, the most important words to know aren't words at all, they are numbers: ~ Purchase Shrimp by their Count, not by their Size ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)


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